Jan Steinvik and Jarno Nisula are two of the nicest UNHAS air operations officers you will ever meet.
I had the pleasure of spending the day with them at the Aeropuerto Internacional La Isabela in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and watched as they booked in passengers from various aid agencies and then directed them to the de Havilland Dash-8 waiting on the tarmac.
There were over a half dozen eager aid workers waiting to board the flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and even with their over sized baggage and pre-departure jitters the whole process went off without a hitch.
It was clear form the start that these guys had been handling passengers for quite a while. Both are veterans of WFP air operations and have worked in numerous locations around the world. During their breaks they spent time talking about air ops in places like Nepal, Sudan and the DRC.
Jan has been running operations here for approximately a week while while Jarno arrived only a few days ago to help carry the load. With the help of WFP Dominican Republic Logistics Officer Deyvy Roa, staff member Vinicio Santos and the very capable Ana Mendoza from aviation services provider Rep-Air Aviation, the team has been shuttling personnel and cargo into Haiti on three flights daily.
The Dash-8 is a 35-seat twin prop passenger aircraft while cargo is transported onboard a de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou. The capacity of the Caribou is 2.7 metric tons and the planes configuration makes it perfect for short take off's and landings on remote strips. WFP is also operating an 8-seat Cessna Caravan out of Santo Domingo to help keep up with the high demand for passenger services.
The excellent condition of the airport is another factor which helps the team complete their mission. A small office with internet connectivity allows to the team to work on site between arrivals and departures and the cooperative airport officials have made setting up an operation relatively effortless.
There will always be challenges to setting up an operation in a new airport but if you ask Jan and Jarno how their now location compares to other places they have worked I am sure they would be very complimentary of their new location.
All air services are currently operated free of charge for all humanitarian workers. Interested parties simply need to submit a request via email either to UNHASPAX.Haiti@wfp.org (passengers) or firstname.lastname@example.org (cargo).
Special thanks to Jan, Jarno and the UNHAS teams in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Rome that are working literally night and day to make this mission a success.